In this episode, John goes into why storytelling is so important (it’s how we actually learn and communicate, not just by dumping facts on people), and how to do it effectively. In particular, John goes into:
Each story has a framework.
Exposition (the who, what, when, where, why)
The problem– if there’s no problem, there’s no drama
And the resolution– what life is like after the solution
How to Move up the “5 I’s” Ladder (whether in sales or in the dating world)
Note that most small business are stuck on the first 2 rungs.
The way to move up the ladder is to tell stories (you may have heard them called “case studies”) about one person so that other people can see themselves in the story. These stories will find their way to your buyers and pull them in if you do a good job.
Of course, this means picking your niche so that your story resonates with the other people in that niche. Don’t worry about going too narrow (this should sound familiar from Aaron Ross’s advice on nailing your niche). Your story will still resonate, just not as powerfully, with nearby niches. This is still better than telling a more generic story that applies to everyone, but resonates with no one.
To all the way to the top of the ladder, John (of course) tells the story of meeting Michael Phelps, and how his coach asked if he was willing to train on Sundays. When Michael said that we he was, the coach said, “great, now we have 52 more training sessions than the other swimmers.” This is John’s way of getting us to think about what we can do or offer that no one else can.
Weaving stories together
The buyer wants to see their story in your story about other buyers. They also need to know your story (although we typically focus too much on this part, and not enough on the others). So how do we weave these stories together?
First consider 3 unspoken questions a prospect has. Not: do I know, like, and trust you? But: do I trust, like, and know you? In other words, do I trust you enough to even listen to anything you have to say? Then, do I like you enough to want to listen? And finally, moving from the gut, to the heart, to the head, do I know you (and that you can do the job)?
If you can do that, you can use the case study to weave the stories together.
In this age of more and more information and technology, storytelling is more important than ever, but in John’s view, everyone can be a good storyteller.
Handling the negatives
Don’t get put off by objections– they are buying signals. And don’t forget that it’s not the job of your prospects, strangers, or even your kids to make you feel good. As John writes, “that’s why they call it self-esteem.”
Side note: some slides I often like to use:
The Wine (& Whisky)
John enjoys some Stag’s Leap Chardonnay.
Earlier that morning, I’d had a wisdom tooth out. They told me to avoid alcohol for a couple of days (not because of any health issues, but because it would hurt). I was tempted to just skip having a drink with John, but that didn’t seem right. I also didn’t want to open a bottle of wine if it was too painful to drink. So I decided to have a sip of whisky as a test. All good. So I had a glass of Caol Ila Islay 12 year old scotch.
(I was trying extra hard to concentrate and felt that I wasn’t doing a great job, but John said it was a good conversation.)
This is a bit of a different episode, but bear with me. Oscar Trimboli is not a “sales” expert, or a “marketing” expert, or any of the usual experts you’ll find on this podcast. He’s a “deep listening” expert. What does that even mean? And what does it mean for you?
First, consider the time and effort you’ve put into communication. Speaking, writing, presenting. Maybe not as much time and effort as we’d like, but consider how much time and energy have you invested in learning to listen?
Listening is more important that talking, but most of us have no formal training in how to listen. The good news is that you can listen to this episode (no pun intended) and get some great training that will help you be more effective at work and at life.
In this episode, learn:
How Oscar learned to be good at cards despite being bad at math.
How he decided to focus his career on deep listening.
Why deep listening is essential for good sales and marketing
How to shorten the sales cycle
The 4 listening villains (The Dramatizer, The Interrupter, The Lost Listener, and The Shrewd Listener)
The simple reason we have to listen deeply– the rates of speaking (125 words per minute), listening (400 words per minute) and thinking (up to 900 words per minute) are different– so there’s always something unsaid going through the speaker’s mind. You might only be getting 11% of the picture.
Listen for code words that show that speaker is getting to thoughts originally unspoken, like “I’ve just realized…” or “what I forgot to mention is…”
Deep listening is actually about helping the speaker get their real thoughts out.
Aaron Ross returns to Sales for Nerds after coming on in Episode 20. If you haven’t heard that, you might want to listen to that first (although you don’t have to). Aaron’s got 9 kids (and working on more– many of these are adopted, just FYI), so he’s a busy guy.
He started a company that failed because he didn’t know sales well enough, so he joined Salesforce to learn about sales.
How do you know if you have a good niche? If you can describe what you do, whether an elevator pitch or on twitter, do people understand what you do, and do the right people ask for more.
A lot of updates to the second edition involve the deluge of information. Aaron notes that buyers don’t necessarily know more than ever, they’re often more confused than ever.
If you’re in services, it’s easy to say that almost anyone could be in your market, so focus on the use cases where you add the most value.
The Current Information Environment
How do you deal with massive surge of content– you can’t just write a great blog post and get on the front page of Google. You have to create a signature piece of cornerstone content. What’s the one thing you want your company to be known for?
How Do You Grow the Value of Your Company
Another interesting case study from the book is how Bregal Sagemount — a private equity firm– triples the value of a company in 3 years. They mostly focus on growing sales faster– because that grows the value of the company most effectively. They invest in getting more leads, run better meetings, leading to more deals. (Sounds familiar, right?)
Unifying Sales and Marketing, while Specializing Roles
They try to get specialized roles for sales, especially better outbound prospecting, but they also get sales and marketing together as a “revenue team”. One of the best practices is to put marketing on a quota for sales-qualified leads or revenue, if the sales cycle is short enough (a quarter or less). So if you want to increase the value of your company, increasing sales growth and predictability is likely the way to go.
How do you define a qualified lead? This will vary from company to company and even by channel (an inbound lead is usually more qualified than an outbound lead, for example). A starting point for a qualified lead might be:
Do they have authority
Do they have a need
Do they want a next step
Note that in industry, a person with enough authority can make budget and timing happen.
Inbound and Outbound (Nets and Spears)
Inbound is great, outbound is great. And they go great together. Outbound lets you access parts of the market that don’t know you exist, and you can define your targets. If you’re going to do outbound, make sure one person owns the initiative. At least one person should be doing this full time for a few months. One example is Zuora, which had reps doing 30 calls and 60 emails per day. The better you know your customer, the better you’ve nailed your niche, the easier this outbound prospecting gets.
If you don’t know who to call, but you know which companies, you can call the company and ask nicely.
When someone asks what you do, pretend they asked you “how do you help your customers?” Use the first 3 seconds of the conversations to earn the next 60 seconds.
By all means, check out the book… (see links below)
Liston got his start in environmental engineering, and picked up a lot of sales and marketing expertise along the way. He started freelancing as a digital marketer (“I knew enough to be dangerous”) and started an agency.
However, as marketing scales, it becomes less about individual people and more about numbers. He missed the one-on-one interaction, so he started his current venture, to help consultants scale their practices, making him a great fit for Sales for Nerds, since that’s really the whole mission of the podcast.
In this episode, learn:
About Liston’s life work: understanding how people make decisions and why.
The three types of consulting founders (and why all of them rely on sales to make money).
Which is why you need to invest in sales and marketing the same way you invest in your craft.
How you can be more proactive in generating referrals and word-of-mouth type sales, instead of waiting passively for that business to come to you.
How to use inbound and outbound strategies together, and why they are both important.
How to deal with your fear of entering the media world.
The one critical thing you need more of to get more clients.
Liston’s simple, attainable, really strong outbound sales strategy that you can start doing right now.
How to handle inbound inquiries better.
Much, much more…
The Wine Whisky
Liston brings some Kentucky bourbon– Ri(1) (pronounced Rye-one).
I was all out of Lagavulin, perhaps my favorite Scotch, but I did have some Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition laying around, which brings a bit more sherry flavor to the peaty intensity of Lagavulin. I think this is probably the most expensive bottle I’ve featured on the podcast, although on a per-serving basis, whisky is a pretty good value. 😉
Rick is the VP of Sales and Marketing for National Association of Sales Professionals, so he’s like an uber meta-sales person, but that’s not how he started. He got a summer internship knocking on doors for a painting company. Learn about his journey, and hear Rick’s insights on sales psychology, including:
Why you’re a sales professional if you’re a business owner.
What he learned his first day doing door-to-door sales as an introvert, and how you can use it when dealing with your own inner psychology.
How Rick became the #1 sales rep for a Cisco integrator, outselling many people who had been there long before him.
How much time to give yourself to do research before a call.
How information gets conveyed (55% body language, 38% tone, 7% words). This is why talking on the phone loses so much information.
(Check out the show Lie to Me for more on how body language reveals a lot about us.)
The importance of finding mentors, and why it’s not as hard as you think.
Pre-framing (don’t just punt it to the prospect), re-framing (getting back on track), and de-framing (backing out gracefully if there isn’t a fit) are 3 great skills to learn.
Learn to ask questions gently, but persistently.
Sales is not about directing, it’s about aligning and redirecting. (Don’t attack someone, they will put up a wall.)
The one thing Rick would like people to fix: don’t focus on yourself.
Rick brings some innovation to Sales for Nerds by having champagne.
I make a move to Burgundy with Chateau de Santenay Bourgogne Pinot Noir, which is definitely more earthy than the California Pinot I often drink, but still accessible and it doesn’t have the deep earth flavors some people don’t enjoy.
Craig started as a computer science major and ended up one of the top sales people in Canada, with a best-selling sales book to his name.
How did this happen? And what can you learn from this for your business (and your life)?
In this episode, learn:
What’s considered a mild winter in Calgary.
How he jump started his sales career, even though he didn’t seem qualified on paper. (And how he reflected on this later and the realization it led to.)
Craig’s primary sales philosophy: How do I become the first person people call when they have a problem?
Where to look for great sales reps.
Why he had a lot of price objections when he started, and what he did about it.
What he did after he joined WorldCom just as 9/11 was happening, and then, after he became their top sales rep, what happened when everyone realized the execs had committed accounting fraud. It was the first time no one would buy from him.
Craig’s 3 big epiphanies about sales:
The Window of Disatisfaction
Trigger Events (and typical examples)
Analyzing wins (and why it’s more important than the typical sales advice of “even if you lose the deal, don’t lose the lesson”)
Why you need to use verbs instead of nouns (with some great examples from trucking companies to marriages), and what you want to hear as a response.
Why you want to ask “how?” and “what?” rather than “why?” questions (speaking of advice that can also apply to marriages).
Why Craig ended up living on Yerba Buena Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay (I always wondered who actually lived there whenever I drove over the Bay Bridge).
And much, much more. Even though I had read Craig’s book, I learned a ton, and I think you will, too.
Joy Beatty insists she is not a VP of Sales. Or Marketing. Even though she runs both teams for Seilevel, a requirements consulting firm that helps companies complete big software project successfully by actually having the right requirements in place. (For people who have never been involved in these big projects, this probably sounds crazy. For people who have, you know how important it is.)
How does she reconcile this: “I don’t see myself in sales. I see myself as a problem-solver.” One thing she can do is put a process in place. So that’s what she did, to great success. Learn how she did that, and how you can do the same thing, without being a world class sales expert, including
How she never wanted to run sales, and thought it was a terrible idea.
How she applied Sandler concepts (including some learned from Adam Boyd from Episode 3), not only to sales, but also to consulting, including the use of upfront contracts and making it safe to say “no.” (“I don’t feel like I’m doing sales, and I guess that’s why it’s working.”)
Why they don’t use quotas.
How to get opportunities unstuck.
How they defined the sales process (and how you can do it quickly if you’re not sure where to start).
How to get people to change and use the new process.
How Joy applies requirements consulting techniques to simplify sales reporting.
How to keep yourself accountable if you’re doing sales in addition to your “day job.”
Joy shares a tip she learned from me (!) about picking up the phone.
Here’s an example of working on the sales process:
Joy brought some Aimé Roquesante rosé. I am trying to broaden my horizons, but I have to admit I’m having some trouble here. If you’re a rosé fan, don’t let me deter you.
Terry is the President of Hansen Group Company, a sales performance improvement firm, and the creator of Hansen University, an online training platform with over 60 hours of online courses for sales professionals and sales managers. For over a decade, Terry has helped enterprises, nonprofits and startups find more prospects, close more deals, and retain customers longer. Terry and his wife have 5 kids, so that might be an even more impressive insight into his organizational skills. 😉
Like most people on this podcast, Terry never thought he’d end up in sales, let alone a sales trainer. A gymnast in high school, Terry ended up working as a stunt performer at Disneyland.
He almost ran off to join the circus. Literally. But with a young family, he needed more reliable work, so he tried sales. And was terrible at it. It took him years to figure it out (although less time than me).
He realized that most of his peers in the sales group had a really polished pitch, so he created his own. Only to realize that the really successful sales reps were much more about listening than talking. Today’s buyers already have a lot of information– they don’t need a feature dump.
Terry also realized that it’s really hard to overcome objections (despite the extensive sales literature on this topic). It’s much better to prevent those objections earlier in the sales process.
Terry realized that while their are lots of possible objections, they basically boil down to 4 main issues:
Motivation. How much pain or urgency is there?
Budget and money.
Authority to get the deal done.
The product/service/solution itself.
The PIMAT Framework. Use Terry’s framework to remember what you need to have a qualified deal:
Reuben enjoyed a Los Frailes Sinergia Cabernet Sauvignon from 2014. It’s an organic wine, that started with a strong “this is an organic wine” taste (can someone tell me what that is?), but having a glass the day after I opened it, that taste was mostly gone, and what was left was a very smooth cab (I would have thought it was a different grape, if you’d asked me).
I had a lot of fun talking about proposals with Collin Stewart, co-CEO of Predictable Revenue (along with Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue, who did an interview on Sales for Nerds earlier to talk about that and his new book From Impossible to Inevitable). Collin was a good sport about me beating up on his proposal (he had sent me an example before the interview, and I had taken out my proverbial red pen). I hope I was as good a sport about my poor outbound sales skills. 😉